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Wilderness stay on playoff edge

A 3-point weekend against the top team in the division allowed the Minnesota Wilderness to keep pace in the playoff hunt last weekend, with four games to go.

Minnesota got a shutout from goalie Adam Prokop, 3-0, on March 29 to beat the Wisconsin Windigo, while the Wilderness sent the next night's game into a tie and shootout, won 2-1, by the Windigo.

With 61 points, Minnesota (28-23-5) remained in fifth place in the division with four games left to play, all against the Springfield Jr. Blues, including two at home this week and two on the road in Illinois the next.

The top four teams advance to the North American Hockey League's Robertson Cup playoffs. Wisconsin (82 points), Anchorage (80), Janesville (71), and Chippewa (62) hold the top four spots heading into the regular season's final games.

Prokop's shutout included holding the NAHL's top power play silent, stopping the Windigo on two chances, and getting 36 saves in total.

Hailing from Wausau, Wisconsin, Prokop, 20, won for the first time since Nov. 18, having ceded starting duties to Nick Erickson.

The Windigo came into the weekend as the second-highest scoring team in the league, with 217 goals. Prokop allowed just one regular-time goal all weekend.

The Wilderness got two goals from Nick Blood, a Minnetrista, Minnesota native, and one from Switzerland's Alessandro Lurati in the March 29 win.

Prokop saved 28 shots in the 1-1 tie on Saturday, but the Windigo prevailed 2-1 in the sixth round of a shootout. A cell phone video of Ren Morque's shootout attempt for the Wilderness showed the puck appear to cross the line, but video reviews proved inconclusive to the officials.

Had the goal been allowed, Minnesota would have been triumphant.

Minnesota now has four chances left against Springfield (19-29-8) to climb into the fourth spot.

Minnesota is 3-1 against the Jr. Blues this season. Games were scheduled at 7:15 p.m. Thursday and Friday at Northwoods Credit Union Arena in Cloquet, followed by a pair of games in Springfield, Illinois on April 12-13.